Sunday, June 15, 2014

Birch Beer & Father's Day Blessing


We had a nice surprise for all our dads and nurturing men this Father’s Day. Here’s my brief reflection that I shared with our fathers.

Men know that if they want to be successful, you have to have the right contacts. I am blessed since moving out of the city and into the country that I have several men who provide the guidance and wisdom I need to survive in the country.

One man is the chief of the volunteer fire department. He would call on me if there were any fatality to provide support for his brave firefighters. In return, he is a master mechanic and if something goes wrong with my tractor, I would call him and he would come to me rescue. One time he came at five in the morning to plow out the driveway since I was out of town on a critical incident. He noticed that I didn’t have backup lights for the tractor and found it difficult to see. This Spring he installed backup lights so that I can see where I am going in the dark. That’s just like Jesus who helps us at times when we are in they dark; his words of wisdom help us find our way when we are in a jam. And most men find themselves in lots of jams.

Then I have a neighbor who has lived his lifetime in a farming community and he has lots of contacts. I needed some wood chips, not just a wheelbarrow full, but truck loads. No problem, He called his friend and the chips keep coming. When I needed some instruction on how to use my tractor to level the driveway, he came to show me how to use the bucket and it was the first time I heard of the phase “float.” The meaning has nothing to do with wading in a pool. Is that not why Jesus came into the world; to give men the tools they need to be successful. It might be a lesson on forgiveness, or how to be more patient with people, or a simple lesson in learning to let go of past hurts and walking with the Lord.

Then I recently met two experienced woodmen who taught me how to use a chainsaw. This is what every father wants for Father’s Day. A noisy machine that can tear things up in a hurry. These men taught this apprentice priest to have great respect for a chainsaw that can tear you apart in an instant. It’s the same in our relationships, one word can tear apart years of friendship. We have to be on our guard to watch our anger and resentments that we don’t get out of control. Once again, we look to Jesus who taught the proper way to use our tools of life so that we do no harm to others and learn to grow in patience and understanding.

I am most humbled by my spiritual mentor. He has had his share of physical problems in recent years, but instead of resentment, he puts his faith and trust in God. He literally knows how to relax and let God do all the worrying for him. This brings him great peace of mind as he has brought to my life.

Finally, I thought about my dad, who never got to see me ordained a priest, but he has always been a guiding mentor throughout my years of ministry.
I miss him very much but he taught me to have respect for older mentors. I am humbled by the men who serve as my guides and grateful for sharing their practical wisdom and experience.

One memory that I have of my dad is going to the Polish Broadway Market in Buffalo. After Easter grocery shopping, we would have lunch at the Shopper House that featured roast beef on kimmelweck bread and birch beer.

I was told there is one special brand of birch beer called Pennsylvania Dutch that is the best! It was not available at Wegman’s but they had other brands. But I’m stubborn and wanted the best for our dads. So I got online and found Pennsylvania Dutch headquarters in New Jersey and called customer service. They told me to contact like “Patty’s Pantry’ and the “Red Bird Market” but these were mom and pop stores that carried only a few cans. The search expanded to Warsaw and Albion. It was in Albion, that Paul the owner had 150 cans of Pennsylvania Dutch Birch Beer waiting for me at his checkout counter in Albion.

So in honor of my dad, I invited all 21 dads and nurturing men into the sanctuary to receive a “Birch Beer and Papa Blessing” in appreciation for making room in their busy lives for Papa God.

“We give our thanks, Creator God, for the fathers in our lives. Our dads who took us out for our favorite kimmelweck sandwich and birch beer.
Fatherhood does not come with a manual, and reality teaches us that some fathers excel while others fail. We ask for Your blessings for them all – and forgiveness where it is needed.
This Father’s Day we remember the many sacrifices fathers make for their children and families, and the ways – both big and small – they lift children to achieve dreams thought beyond reach.
So too, we remember all those who have helped fill the void when fathers pass early or are absent – grandfathers and uncles, brothers and cousins, teachers, pastors and coaches – and the women of our families.
For those who are fathers, we ask for wisdom and humility in the face of the task of parenting. Give them the strength to do well by their children and by You by your love bless them always.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

What I Know


It’s graduation time for many young people. So I love this story that gives us “older folks” hope and inspiration.

The story is told of a young man who graduated from high school and then very nervously and with great anxiety enrolled in a local college. The first day that classes began his professor challenged his students to get to know someone they didn't already know. Our young man stood up and looked around; then a gentle hand touched his shoulder. He turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady smiling at him with a smile that lit up her entire being.
"Hi handsome," she said. "My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"

The young man laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you can!" and she gave him a giant squeeze. "Why are you in college? he asked. She said, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, have a couple of children, and then retire and travel, she answered. "No seriously, “I’d really like to know” he said. "I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one" she answered.

After class, they walked to the student union building and shared a chocolate milkshake. And they became instant friends. Every day for the next three months they would leave class together and talk nonstop. The young man was always mesmerized listening to this virtual "time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with him. Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon, and she easily made friends wherever she went.

At the end of the semester, Rose was invited to speak at the graduation. Those who attended and heard what Rose had to say will never forget what she taught them that particular day. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three-by-five cards on the floor. Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery.! I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me! I'll never get my speech back in order, so just let me tell you what I know."

"We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing. There are no secrets to staying young, being happy and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor every day. You've got to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die. Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding the opportunity to change. Have no regrets. The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets." She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose". She challenged those in attendance to study the lyrics and live them out in their daily lives.

At the year's end, Rose finished her college degree she had begun all those years ago. One week after graduation, Rose died peacefully in her sleep. Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.

God invites us to listen to his words and what do you hear? “Listen to me, my faithful children, and blossom like a rose growing by a stream of water.”  (Sirach 39:13).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are still growing and open to learning new adventures. May the  seed of inspiration help us to be all that God wants us to be.